IRONICALLY it was posting a video online of a song called Nothing Ever Happens that led to Ben Brookes recording his debut album in America with a crack team of session musicians.
The Southsea singer-songwriter’s video of the Del Amitri number was spotted by Minnesota businessman Larry Laughlin, who left a message of encouragement.
Larry again popped up when Ben put up his next video of him singing one of his own songs in his kitchen, Stories In The Rain, and the two soon struck up a friendship.
But Ben was left stunned when Larry sent him a digital eight-track recorder, professional mic and headphones, telling him he wanted to hear what he could really do. Shortly after that, Larry upped the stakes again – offering to fly Ben out to Minnesota to record an album.
The 30-year-old said: ‘I couldn’t believe that someone, a total stranger, was so inspired by my music to do all this for me. When he told me about coming to the States, I thought that this was absolutely crazy.’
Ben was whisked to the lakeside Villa Studio in Savage, Minnesota, where he met producers Mark Healey, who also plays with ’70s soft-rockers Badfinger, and John Wright of jazz-fusion group Galactic Cowboy Orchestra.
There’s never been any real plan of action with this, it’s all fallen into place by chanceBen Brookes
As the sessions took shape, the producers brought in a dazzling array of musical friends to help including former drummer with Prince’s New Power Generation, Michael Bland, and keyboard player, Gregg Inhoffer, who played on Bob Dylan’s Blood on The Tracks.
‘Gregg was telling me all these stories about Dylan,’ said Ben.
‘I’ve listened to that album countless times, and now I’m sitting here with the man who played keys on it. He really brought something to the table when he played.’
One day while out on the studio’s veranda Ben spotted what he at first thought was a piece of glass, but on closer inspection turned out to be a crystal.
He said: ‘I’ve called it the stone of serendipity – I’m going to make a necklace out of it. There’s never been any real plan of action with this, it’s all fallen into place by chance. I don’t know how these things happen, they just do.’
Ben and Larry have now set up their own record label for the project, Martin Guild Worldwide Productions – named after the makes of guitar they used in recording.
‘I believe that this is going to be a success,’ added Ben. ‘I’ve never had so much faith in a project before.’
The resulting album, The Motorcar And The Weather Balloon, is out on limited release tomorrow with a deluxe version available next year including extra tracks and a documentary about the album’s making.
The album is being launched tomorrow with a concert at The Rifle Club on Goldsmith Avenue in Fratton, Portsmouth. Support comes from Paul Dillon, Marley Blandford and Heir of The Dog. Doors open at 7pm, tickets cost £10. Go to book.events/benbrookes.